Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Grim Dawn Community League Season 2, Week 2ish

  • Went after the level 90 Ultimate leveling boss challenges right when I hit level 84 and upgraded my weapon and armor.  Succeeded at all of them except Kra'vall, amusingly.  I think direct damage melee is a bad matchup against him, since you have to stand right up in his face to hit him, which allows him to hit you with all of his melee attacks and the whirlpool and the ice storm.  Maybe I could've done if it I were willing to dart in, whack him a couple of times, and dart back out when the whirlpool and ice storm come down, but it would've taken forever.
    • This was also my first time ever fighting Loxmere and that was a very quick fight, a rocket-tag DPS contest.
  • Finished the main campaign, AoM, and FG in Ultimate.  The third phases of both of the expansion bosses were a bit touch-and-go. 
  • Did most of Elite AoM and bounties to get all expansion factions up to revered.  Pretty quick with the writs really.
  • Hit the level cap while doing bounties iirc.
  • Traded for a decent endgame set.  A very interesting experience with possible implications for magic item trading in D&D.
  • Did the Shattered Realm push down to shard 12 or so (which used to be 60).  I'm loving the shortened SR push length.  Did some SR farming in Elite and a bit of SR in Ultimate for season points and skill points.
  • Hunted faction nemesis bosses
    • Kubacabra first; took a couple of resets to get him to spawn in southern Gloomwald, and then I was getting debuffed by the artillery plants while trying to fight him, and an ent hero wandered in to help too.  It took a while.
    • Grava'thule while I was passing through the void to hit the cthonic altar for Lokarr's quest.  Got all my buffs dispelled immediately.  Unable to facetank due to the damage of the void pools.  Ran around casting Judgment and letting the guardians whack him, which also gave me room to maneuver subsequent dispel orbs into terrain features.  Not my proudest bossfight.
    • Got lucky with Moose; visited the Arkovian Arena on a whim and there he was standing right in the middle of it.
    • Several of the new Ghost Hunter nemesis bosses
      • Uro was easy
      • Derivius inflicts noticeable damage but I can beat him consistently
      • I don't remember Lucia but apparently I've beaten her at least once
      • Chase almost killed me when he first spawned; we ran around a bit and then I facetanked him.  Not sure what was up with that.
      • Michio stunlocked me and I think I ended up just dying while trying to flee, then not returning to that spot in that session.
      • Haven't met Perenna yet
  • Went after some of the easier superbosses for season points.
    • Lokarr first for his set
    • I had never done the Clones of John Bourbon or Daila's secret quest before.  Interesting revelations about Uroboruuk.
    • Took two shots at Mogdrogen with slightly-varying gear and skill setups.  The first one I got him down to half and then got ruined when his damage buff came up.  The second time I ground him all the way down but it took a really long time.  Literally palms sweaty at the end.  I have never beaten Mogdrogen before.

I think I'm going to take a break.  I don't have an angle on the level 35 Ultimate challenges.  Given that Mogdrogen was a close thing the even stronger superbosses seem like they're just going to take a lot of gear-tuning (which I don't really enjoy) and disengaging rather than facetanking.  I could do more Ultimate Shattered Realm I guess.  Some of the other nemeses are doable with this character (Valdaran and Benny) but it's a tough choice between grinding rep or leveling another character to 100 after using the Hunter's Chest to reach nemesis automatically with eg Cronley's gang.  Either is a long project.  The ultimate Ancient Grove and Tomb of the Heretic are probably achievable though I could well lose to the bosses I think.  I'm not super-excited about the new story content or the boundless dungeons.  So I think I'm going to let it rest a bit.

Trading has been fun, and it's sort of unique to the season structure because a lot of the items traded outside of the season are probably just hacked in.  I could probably just play some SR now and then, sell people legendaries, see just how much ugdenbloom I can amass and how many people I can help, and find significant fun in that.  And that would be a "making my own fun" thing to do.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Grim Dawn Community League Season 4 - Week 1


The plan to do Black Legion bounties and sidequests to get rep up to Honored and open the path to the Herald of Destruction worked out fine, and left me with plenty of XP budget for all of the Herald, the Guardian of Bysmiel, and the Sentinel.  The Herald went fine; it only summoned gazers / overseers instead of flesh hulks, so it may have been the easiest of the three heralds.  The Guardian of Bysmiel was also a much easier fight than Dreeg or Solael had been.  The Sentinel was a very close thing; I got stuck in between the wall and his summoned crystals, but got through it.

I think between the Herald and the Sentinel I started investing points into Judgment and Crushing Verdict for the DA shred.  This is also a great skill for triggering Maul, since they have the same duration and cooldown, and Maul triggers 100% of the time when attached to Judgment.  So now it's much more reliable than having it attached to Feral Hunger like the build guide suggested.  It's also very good for pulling lots of light enemies into melee range, where Feral Hunger can then hit its max possible targets.  I'll pull points back out of Judgment/Crushing Verdict when it's time to start putting points into Celestial Presence but I think it's a better value-store than just oathkeeper mastery points for now.

After that I finished the Elite main campaign and set my sights on the "elite skeleton key dungeons by level 70" challenges.  I wasn't sure how these would go, and made liberal use of potions (including the +resistance potions).  Steps of Torment was a cakewalk except for Zarthuzellan and Alkamos, both of which were close fights.  Melee+damage pools on the ground is not a great time.

After the couple of close shaves I sat down and had a good hard look at the stats for the bosses of the other roguelike dungeons and was shocked at the amount of resistance reduction they can bring to bear.  I ran most of Act 1 Ultimate up to the Warden's Lab rift (turning in minimal quests) to pick up some easy shrines for the resistance nodes on Ulzaad and was pleasantly surprised that I was still able to facetank Shambler on Ultimate.  Then I rejiggered my equipment and resists to have elemental, poison, vitality, and aether all overcapped by about 30 and ran Port Valbury.  The Herald of the Stars was easier this time.  There were a few close calls past the gate where I got stuck in a pack of enemies on top of aether ground.  The Watchers all went rather well and I picked up two of the three belts.  The bossfight went OK.  I think I've only run Valbury once before, and last time was a very AoE heavy ranged character I think (mortars, blackwater, and guardians of empyrion), so I didn't pay much attention or have much control over spreading damage between the three guys.  This time I got them all down to about 1/3 health, knocked out the Overlord, then the poison guy, then the ice/vitality guy.  There were still a few close moments and I disengaged to use potions a couple of times, but ultimately it worked out.

With my aether resistance all tuned up, it seemed like a good time to pop back into Ultimate for the Warden.  It was an easier fight than the Warden in Elite.

After this I went and retuned my resistances for fire and chaos and set off for the Bastion.  I also did the first two Kymon's Chosen quests in Elite to get my rep with them up to Honored, allowing me to buy their amulet/ring augment that gives chaos resistance and physical damage - an excellent combination.  The Bastion was the toughest of the three; there were several spots where I was stuck in a mass of enemies around damaging crystals with even more enemies firing projectiles and igniting the ground under me, and a close call at the end of the second level where I had tried to pass a pair of hero enemies but there were another two hero enemies past them.  Vanish and Vire's Might paid off here.  The fight with Shar'zul was also the worst/closest of the three bossfights, despite using both the chaos resistance potion and Rover's health regen potion.  He knocked me down to half almost immediately and I ended up running around tagging him with the edge of Judgment's radius for a while.  Once I got him down far enough I re-engaged in melee over a Wendigo Totem and was able to close it out.  Not my finest hour but the job got done.

I think these were my second or third attempts each at Port Valbury and Bastion of Chaos ever, and definitely the first with a character of less than level 100.  Under the circumstances I'm reasonably content with how they went.

At this point I'm still a bit short of level 70, where I'll get a significant upgrade in gear quality, both offensively and defensively.  The Bastion did give me enough Barrowholm rep to reach Respected and buy their writ, and potentially their level 65 armor, though I have some solid level 70 Fleshwarped Platemail on deck so I haven't.  I don't have a level 70 troll bonecrusher yet but that will help too.  The elite Fettan Mask for +1 to all skills isn't far off, at level 75.  The next round of level-capped challenges are at 90, so I have some breathing room to do Ultimate main campaign and probably work on Forgotten Gods for witch cults rep.  It might be best to attempt the level 90 challenges sooner rather than later though, since they probably scale up pretty hard and I'll get a bump at 70 and 75 from new gear.  The ones in Cronley's pit are pretty reachable; Loxmere and Kra'vall are further afield and will have to wait.  I'm not sure I'll attempt the Mad Queen; she's cleaned my clock when I've tried her before, and I hear she's extra-bad for melee characters (which may have been related to my poor record against her).  I suppose I could just run around casting Judgment like I did with Shar'zul...  and maybe by then I'll have Guardians to mess with her pathing.  I've never fought Loxmere before and expect to get trounced there too.

It will probably be a relief when I pass 90 and don't have to think about those challenges for a while.  I'm looking forward to Shattered Realm with the league's changes.

I keep forgetting to use Ascension during these close bossfights.  I should just start using it during regular fights and make a habit of it.

After Shar'zul I turned in a bunch of Act 3 Elite and Act 1 Ultimate quests I had finished but was holding back to keep my level down, which put me halfway between 69 and 70.


I'm not totally clear on the order I did things.  I think I started doing Ultimate Act 2 and was taking big physical damage hits.  I dropped back to Elite Forgotten Gods for Solael rep (bringing Bysmiel and Solael both up to Respected) and upgraded into some Witch Cults armor, then started Elite Malmouth to bring the Coven up to Respected.  Came back to Ultimate main campaign and finished it out.  Right around level 75 I swapped my helmet for the Elite Fettan Mask and my old Mogara amulet for my first seasonal / modded item, Dralgar's Star Pendant, for another +1 all skills, which helped free up skill points to have both Celestial Presence and Crushing Verdict.  I also deviated from the guide and swapped Chariot of the Dead for Ghoul for its circuit-breaker, which has big attack speed, physical resistance, and attack damage converted to health bonuses while it's up.  It is fairly unusual to see a melee auto-attacker without Ghoul.  Unfortunately this means my OA is back in the trash and I'm not seeing Assassin's Mark fire very often.  At least I have Guardians now as an RR source.  And it's better to be alive with low damage than dead with high damage.

Cronley, Voldrak, Zaria, Karroz, and Lucius were all pretty easy, but it was one of the closer Log fights I've had.  I made an effort to grab bounties concurrent with where I was heading and now I think I have all the main campaign factions at Revered except for Kymon's Chosen, who are mid-Honored.  Bysmiel, Solael, and the Coven are still at Respected, while Dreeg is at Friendly.  I forget where Barrowholm is, but might be early Honored.

I'm not really sure what to do now.  I'm in the early 80s, which is one of the longest gaps between gear upgrades.  I have some good Fleshwarped Platemail with Tenacity of the Boar bonuses on deck for 84, and as always I can get a fresh Bonecrusher reliably from Benevald.  A bunch of my armor is quite obsolete and I should probably swap it out for faction gear.  I think I might work on early Ultimate Forgotten Gods to bring Dreeg up to Respected and get the Writ, then switch back to Elite Forgotten Gods and finish it for a bunch of rep with all three factions.  I'm also on the fence about whether to do Malmouth in Elite or Ultimate first.  My experiences so far with aether totems that spawn Malmouth titans in Ultimate have been rather rough.

I may be getting a bit bored of this playstyle.  I was considering a rebuild into lightning Eye of Reckoning.  I also have a caster apostate build that I want to play, relying on seasonal MIs that drop in Malmouth.  I think this archon will be better for Shattered Realm once he hits 100 and is properly kitted out.  So my competing priorities are:

  • Leveling to 100 - XP is best got from quests on Ultimate
    • But I'm approaching the level limits for Elite expansion zones, so if I want to get XP for the monsters I'll kill along the way while doing those quests, I should do them sooner than later.
  • Get expansion factions up to Revered - best done through quests on Ultimate
  • Season objectives:
    • Bosses in Ultimate with level 90 limits
    • Act 1 Ultimate bosses with level 35 limits
      • The caster apostate might be good for these - ability to fight from range, avoid hits
      • But I'm not sure how much leveling gear like mandates, XP potions, and Lokarr set I'd really want here, and it would be easy to accidentally out-level 35.
  • Pushing Shattered Realm - I'm not sure how early I could reasonably start this.
  • Bring leveling tech online to make new characters quicker
    • Malmouth XP potions (linked with "Revered with expansion factions")
    • Lokarr's set (linked with "leveling to 100" and "season objectives", he's worth points)
    • Mandates and merits are already pretty much online
  • Having fun
    • Variety of playstyles
    • Exploring the new zones
    • Not doing the same stuff tightly back-to-back (eg Elite Malmouth followed closely by Ultimate Malmouth)
    • Relaxing in familiar content like campaign totem farming
    • Flow-stating in Shattered Realm

In any case, here's the archon at end of day Friday.  As you can see my gear is quite old (character level 81, average gear level 58), my DA is significantly higher than my OA, and my resistances are stupidly-overcapped at the cost of other useful properties on items.  Now that I have access to at least some armor augments, I should probably be swapping a lot of these items out for stuff with lower resistances but more, say, OA, attack speed, +% physical damage, or just plain armor value.  I could probably still benefit from a decent pair of Solael pants from Elite, if I didn't want to tangle with the guardians on Ultimate just yet...

Next week is going to be very busy / mentally loady at work, and I will probably be in the right headspace to come home and run familiar totem routes, but probably not to fiddle with gear.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Grim Dawn Community League Season 4 - Day 2

Continued from part 1

I don't intend to write an entry a day for the next three months; after the initial excitement settles down, a post a week about this seems more likely.

I started the day having dropped to 70th or 80th place on the softcore leaderboard.  The Europeans are pretty good at this game as it turns out.

I rushed through Asterkarn in Normal, picking up the groble shrine and hitting a savage totem on the way.  At Fort Ikon, I skipped the Tomb of the Archon and went straight for Creed and Lucius.  There isn't any particular piece of Kymon's Chosen gear that I have my eye on for later, so they're kinda low priority.  I gave the supplies to the Black Legion - while I want lots of Homestead rep, the Legion is harder to earn it with and easier to lose it with (by, for example, making friends with Anasteria).  I zoomed through the Fields of Strife and the Necropolis exterior, hitting the outdoor shrine but not initially going for the Black Sepulcher shrine.  In retrospect, I should've just done the Black Sepulcher while I was here the first time.  Tomb of the Watchers and Log were pretty easy; the biggest threats were the Cthonian Harbingers' death explosions.  I really need to get some points into Rebuke for the %health reduction resistance.

I ran into an unfortunate crash while looting Log's chests, but fortunately my progress was saved.  I then went to Ugdenbog, less efficiently than I had through Asterkarn, as I made some detours for Nane's stash, Garret Torvin, the Gloomwald shrine, a couple totems, and the shrine in the Tomb of Ugdall.  I made it to Barrowholm and made friends with them but then left the bog.

I decided to push Forgotten Gods in Normal a bit to pick up some more shrines - Hidden Oasis and Cairan Docks.  I was also hoping for a titanovore axe, as I think one would be fun to build an elementalist around, but no luck.  I did get a decent pair of pauldrons though, and I learned that Blood of the Watchers can drop in the Cairan Docks, so I finished out both of Bysmiel's pre-vanguard quests, then spent some time rebalancing my resistances to move up to Elite.

Arriving in Elite, my defenses held up pretty OK but my kill times for single hero targets went up dramatically.  I dropped back to Normal several times, first to try to farm up a better troll bonecrusher without success, then to smith aether shards out of aether crystals to activate the shrines in Elite which let me bring both Assassin's Blade and Maul online before Elite Krieg.  Unfortunately my OA is garbage and Assassin's Mark almost never fires against heroes and bosses.  The guide says to prioritize OA affixes on gear, but at this point I'm mostly prioritizing resistances.  I'm very tempted to sink some points into Presence of Virtue for the OA.  I also think this character would benefit a lot from a couple points in Judgment and Crushing Verdict for crowd disruption and OA shred.

On the upside, I was able to get a couple of bounties in - Gelbrand and Zethbrand for Devil's Crossing in the Warden's Lab, then Halion and his rat, and for the Rovers I got a destroy bandit forges bounty run concurrently with the actual quest and one for Voldrak, where I was surely headed anyway.  I did end up buying a Rovers writ before turning quests in to them in Elite; I had the cash and it seemed like I might want their augments eventually.  I was more right than I knew - it turns out Homestead and the Rovers are the two factions with gloves, not Homestead and Legion like I thought.  So now I have Rovers and Devil's at Honored and have started using their amulet/ring augments to patch up my resistances, which has been a big help.  The Warden and Shanks Doyle were both kinda nasty fights and I ended up switching to higher-armor pieces at the expense of resistances.

Pushing north through Arkovia, I skipped the mine where you're supposed to get dynamite, using dynamite I already had in my inventory from Normal.  I was unable to take the Rocky Coast shrine because I haven't found the recipe for Vengeful Wraiths yet apparently.  Around this point I was having trouble with my pierce resistance and went back to Normal for the Black Sepulcher to get the next node of Solemn Watcher for +18% pierce resistance.  My defenses thus sorted, Cronley's hideout and the Arkovian Undercity went pretty well.

When I arrived in the Barren Highlands, I considered the season objectives for Elite - the Sentinel, at the end of the Hidden Path quest, and the aetherial Heralds.  I decided that I should hit the Guardian of Solael while I was passing through the Highlands to progress the Hidden Path quest, so I went back to Lower Crossing for the Guardian of Dreeg to open the Guardian of Solael.  I almost died several times in the Guardian of Dreeg's zone; the bugs spit so much poison, and then my resistances got reduced down to like 60 during the bossfight and I was taking a lot of damage.  Solael went better but was still a somewhat close thing.  Smuggler's Pass and Voldrak were a welcome relief, where I was able to just facetank, though I again had no luck getting a better bonecrusher.

Arriving at Dead Man's Gulch, I initially planned to head straight for the Herald of Destruction, but remembered shortly before starting my dive into the fire that you have to get to Fort Ikon to get the key.  At this point I was around level 50 or so and started intentionally slowing my XP gain so that I don't pass the level limit of 65 on the challenge.  I've been doing side quests but not turning them in, and rushing through zones for the most part.  I opened Pine Barrens but didn't start the sidequests, and when I arrived in Homestead I did the dermapteran eggs but skipped the hive even though the hive entrance was right on my path.  Amalgamation went well, again facetanking with Wendigo Totem and Blood Pact.

After Amalgamation I decided to get the points that were already within easy reach and headed east for the Herald of the Flames and the Herald of the Stars.  These were both close fights and required potions; I didn't expect them to spawn flesh hulks but apparently they do in Elite.  Getting to the Herald of the Stars was a trial.  If I had been feeling strong the smart play would've been to push through Port Valbury after, for another 100 points if done in Elite before level 70.  But as close as the fights in Valbury Outskirts and against the Herald had been, it felt like it would probably be a waste of a skeleton key.  At least Valbury outskirts fixed my aether crystal shortage...

I believe I maxed out Primal Bond around this time and switched to pushing up the oathkeeper mastery bar.  I have been feeling more durable with Primal Bond's damage absorption.  In devotions, Scales of Ulcama's proc has come online and given me a source of resistance reduction that actually works, finally, so that's been helping too.

After the two heralds I could reach, I zoomed through the Blood Grove and Darkvale Gate.  Zaria went better than I expected, though not as well as in Normal.  Some of the void totems have been rough, with groups of Cthonian Harbingers all popping their life reduction at once.  Karroz had a couple of close moments; again, my resistances weren't overcapped enough and he brought out resistance reduction and then actually hit me, unlike Zaria who reduced my resistances and then kinda sat there for a couple seconds.  I didn't bother with the Chosen's sidequests, but I did pick up legion badges when I saw them and clear out the mill, though I haven't turned either of those in yet.

I also paid Benevald a visit as I was passing through the Grove, and he had a couple of decent bonecrushers, so that was how I finally got a weapon upgrade.  He hasn't seen the last of me, I think.

Asterkarn was another easy jog (though not literally zipping - I generally fail to execute zips).  I did run into the yeti boss but he wasn't a problem.  I arrived in Fort Ikon expecting to be able to get the Herald of Destruction quest but nope, it turns out I need to be Honored with the Legion.  I think this is achievable - I'm about 1500 rep short of Honored.  I think turning in my sidequests, Lucius, the Legion supplies, doing the Pine Barrens sidequests, and picking up a couple of bounties should do it, and I'm only level 57, so I have quite a bit of slack in the XP budget to 65 for the Herald.  I picked up and immediately fulfilled a bounty for Blood of Cthon, which is probably a questionable decision long-term, and locked in a bounty for Mogara, which is basically free rep if I'm going to go do that quest anyway.  So I think that's my immediate plan for the next time I get to play - Legion rep to Honored, then Herald of Destruction.

The real question after that is whether to attempt one of the original three roguelike dungeons, which have a level 70 cap in Elite to score league points.  I feel like Steps of Torment is probably achievable, and it's the one I'm most comfortable in.  Ordinarily I would expect Alkamos to get me since my freeze resist is just 15% from Dire Bear, but Josiah in Homestead was kind enough to sell me a Hoarfrost potion for freeze duration reduction...

At this point I wouldn't be in a huge hurry to earn XP even if I weren't aiming at level-capped season objectives.  I'm in the part of the game where the monsters get stronger faster than I do as I gain levels, so most of my gains relative to them are from finding better gear and unlocking constellations.  It's one thing to rush heedlessly to 94 when you have gear waiting for you in the shared stash, but I don't.  The more shrines and rep I can get with a minimum of XP gain, the better off I'll be later.  Pushing the Legion up to Honored isn't even a bad short-term plan independent of season challenges, since they have a two-handed weapon augment with +% physical and +OA, which is exactly what I need. 

Maybe the difficulty curve by level of Grim Dawn merits further analysis and another post.

In other resource-management concerns, I had a couple of level 50 legendaries drop today, but for classes and damage types that I'm not planning on playing.  So I unlocked the dismantling mechanic and blew them up, getting a manticore eye and an aetherial missive out of the deal, which was better than I expected.  Between that, the two dynamite to open the Guardian of Dreeg, the three dynamite to open Valbury outskirts, and skipping Staunton Mine, though, my dynamite supply is now looking a bit thin.

At the end of day 2, I had moved back up to around 25th place, but I don't expect to be able to hold this given that I do, apparently, have a day job.

Character snapshot at end of day.  I kind of want to use a Chains of Oleron in my chest armor, but I suspect that when I go up to Ultimate I'll just have to smash it and go back to a silk swatch for the resistances.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Grim Dawn Community League Season 4 - Day 1

This is not a D&D-related post.

I've talked before about Grim Dawn [1][2].  Some modders and streamers have been running community leagues about once a year for the past couple of years, where you start fresh and try to accomplish certain challenges within a couple of months.  I hadn't played any of the previous leagues but kind of figured out Shattered Realm this spring and felt qualified to give this one a shot.  I'm not expecting to place particularly well (in part because I have a day job); I'm mostly just hoping to get some points on the board, fight some bosses I don't usually fight, and fiddle with some weird builds enabled by the items they've added.

My plan is to open with a physical savagery archon, roughly following this guide but making some small deviations to eg get Vire's Might earlier.  Historically I've struggled both with building workable archons rather than memey nonsense, and with getting decent OA and DA on budget level 100 characters, so I'm hoping this will help with that.  I've also never really played a physical damage character into lategame before, and having good OA is particularly important here because you need Assassin's Mark to be triggering for physical resistance reduction, which means you need to be critting consistently.

The league opened yesterday and immediately hit technical difficulties; the admins said that last year their backend saw a maximum of about 60 concurrent connections, while yesterday morning they were seeing 400, and it was dropping connections like mad.  I vacuumed, scrubbed my bath tub, and cooked while they worked on that.  After a couple of hours of technical difficulties, they suggested that we could play offline and then bring characters in, with a manual review process to make sure we weren't flagrantly cheating, so I exercised that option.

By the time the technical issues had been resolved and the server upgraded, I was around level 20 and had just beaten the Warden, which put my first points on the board when I got connected to the backend.  I was pretty thorough with my Act 1 clears; almost no aether resistance items were dropping for me, so I wanted the option to use the aether res armor you get from the fabric quest and a purified salt component (I didn't end up using salt but I thought about it).  I had some crowd control problems until I got Feral Hunger up and running; I finally developed an appreciation for the Cracked Lodestone's lightning nova, as a multi-target attack for low-level Savagery shamans who otherwise lack one.  I was a lot less thorough in my Act 2 clearing because I wanted to get to Smuggler's Pass for a troll bonecrusher ASAP, so I mostly rushed through just doing quests and picking up shrines.  I think I picked up a troll bonecrusher around level 25 or so, unlocked Pine Barrens and Homestead rifts around 28, and then decided to backtrack and do the season challenges for beating certain side-bosses before level 35.  I put on the chaos resistance gear I'd been saving up and did the three early chaos bosses (Salazar, Naren Kur, and Father Abadoth) first, then Galeslice since he was pretty close to Abadoth.  Then I hit Gutworm since I was already in that neighborhood and had my bleed resistance up for Galeslice.  Karnath came next and was a bit rough, since my only freeze resistance was a Frozen Heart in one of my rings and a frozen hero had spawned with him, but I got through it.  After that I did the Black Legion Pine Barrens sidequests (except Bloodfeast, who is just a bit too far out of the way), and picked up a very nice Mogara's amulet for more physical damage.  After Gloomweaver I was around level 33 and realized that making it to Rutnick before 35 was achievable, so I grabbed the Tyrant's Hold shrine and then booked it to Rutnick before I could get any more XP.  Then rebuilt the Twin Falls bridge in case I need to go back up there for anything - probably a waste of scrap in retrospect.

At this point I had a couple hundred points on the board and was in the top 20 on the softcore ladder, missing only Astros in the Sunward Spire for the level 35 challenges.  I don't know how anybody got to him without a merit before L35 since he's at the very end of Forgotten Gods, but some people did manage to bag both him and Rutnick on day 1.  Pretty impressive.

I hit two Celestial Totems while doing this, one near Galeslice and one near Rutnick.  I was pleasantly surprised with this character's performance against them - pretty much just facetanked.  Promising.

After Rutnick it was back to the main quest, hitting the dermapteran hive and Amalgamation.  I was on the fence about doing the hive but I really want the Homestead rep, since they have +1 shaman skill belts and I'll want their boots and gloves later.  Amalgamation was an easy facetank, and I got lucky as just south of him Valdaran, the aetherial nemesis, had spawned.  I snuck past Valdaran to fight the Amalgamation, then put on my stun resistance gear and came back for Valdaran, picking up 150 points for beating a nemesis boss under level 45 and putting myself briefly in 4th place.  Patchnotes this morning say that nemesis bosses are going to stop spawning without your rep with their faction being maxed, so I'm glad I got those points in under the change.

Switched my resistance gear back over to chaos/vitality and pushed main quest and Kymon's Chosen through the Blood Grove, using my cthonic seals of binding for the Chosen's quest and passing up the shrine.  Zaria died so fast she didn't get to summon her crystals, which was nice.  Karroz similarly didn't last long.

After Karroz I took a detour into the new zones added this season and opened a bunch of quests, none of which I completed.  I did pick up some of the new monster infrequents that I might want to build later characters around, and I also hit two or three savage totems in a pretty short time, which makes me think this area might be good for totem farming in early endgame.  They really could've used a proofreader on the dialogue text though.

At this point bedtime was approaching so I pushed forward to the next portal along the main quest route in Asterkarn, did a couple of Smuggler's Pass runs for an upgraded troll bonecrusher, and called it a night.  Here's my character at the end of day 1.  My helmet, chest, and leg armor is rapidly going obsolete; I keep hoping for some Fleshwarped Platemail and it keeps not dropping.  Maybe I should bite the bullet and hit the Guardians of Dreeg and Solael on Normal and see if I can get some lucky pants.  I have a couple of rings that I swap around depending on what resists I need at any particular moment; this approach won't last but it's been OK for now.  Some may look askance of Equilibrium but I wanted the Rovers rep for returning the Bone Talisman to help get Runestones early (not that I'm using one yet...) and Equilibrium's resists, move speed, and confusion are good on basically any early-game character.  I'll probably pass it off to whatever I end up leveling next.  My plan at this point is to keep pushing the main quest, rush through the beginning of Ashes of Malmouth to start accumulating rep with the Coven and Barrowholm, then jump to Elite and try to hit the Heralds and the Sentinel before I make level 65.

I did consider just doing Malmouth up to the Coven, doing Act 1 Elite, getting an Elite merit, and then using the opened portals to skip over Ugdenbog and meet Barrowholm.  However, one change they made this season is that faction writs unlock at Respected instead of Honored, but they're still like 75k.  I don't have the iron to buy writs for all the factions that I've hit or am about to hit Respected with, and merits aren't cheap either.  So I think I'm going to prioritize writs for eg Devil's Crossing and Homestead over the Elite merit (DC for their augments and Homestead for belts, boots, and gloves).  The Rovers' writ has lower priority, since I don't really think I need any of their stuff after the Runestone blueprint.  Generally I've been a little surprised at how resource-constrained I've been; I think I have about 20 aether crystals in the bank and since I've outleveled the Warden's lab in Normal but haven't yet opened it in Elite (and I'd much rather not go to Stonerend Quarry or Port Valbury), I don't really have a good farming spot at the moment.  So a 12-crystal Runestone is a significant investment!

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Notes from a Sailing Course

After many years of putting it off, I finally got around to getting some sailing lessons this summer.  Some D&D-relevant notes from instruction and the manual, in the style of Notes From a Hiking Seminar:

I was already familiar with points of sail so I'm not going to talk about that much here.  I have yet to go back and re-evaluate the water travel rules in light of what I have learned.

Land makes wind shadows.  This was very apparent when we were under sail; even small, unimpressive islands were doing it.  It made me wonder about figuring prevailing winds on a per-hex basis, or otherwise getting much more micro with climates than I usually think about.

Expected survival times in water of varying temperatures under varying actions.  Cold water is very bad for your health!  One of the things I read suggested that about half of all "drowning" victims actually die of hypothermia while floating, rather than dying of water entering the lungs.  And swimming to produce more body heat is actually disadvantageous a lot of the time, since your clothes are a crappy wetsuit that holds water that you've warmed next to your skin, but swimming tends to flush them.  In any case, assuming these times are for normal men with d6 HP, we might reasonably conclude that 35 degree water does a point of damage every 20 minutes, 55 degree water a point every hour, and 70 degree water a point every four hours or so.

Nautical charts - they're definitely maps.  I don't think I've ever seen an adventure that took a nautical chart and imposed a hex grid over it but it could be fun.  And there are plenty of them available for free from NOAA (granted, some in an obscure file format used by electronic chart plotters on ships).

"My [the instructor's] wife likes powerboating better than sailing - it's less mysterious".  In a bronze age setting where sailing is a new technology and mystery cults abound, a cult of the mystery of the sail would be fun.

An interesting definition of "seaworthy": "the vessel is competent to resist the ordinary attacks of wind and weather, and is competently equipped and manned for the voyage, with a sufficient crew, and with sufficient means to sustain them, and with a captain of general good character and nautical skill."  Bit of a "what is steel compared to the hand that wields it?" point of view.  And contra OSE's classification of vessels as seaworthy or unseaworthy independent of captain and crew.

On interpreting weather forecasts: "If a forecast calls for a 45% of high winds assume you will be sailing in heavy gusts 45% of the time."  Could have applications for generating weather during a given random encounter - sure you know the big picture of the day's weather, but maybe the encounter is during a lull.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

GURPS Traveller: Far Trader

I've been told several times over the last decade that I need to read GURPS Traveller: Far Trader, because its trade model nicely solves the Golden Pair problem, where your PCs find two planets with complementary trade codes near each other and make a killing.  Which is silly, because why has nobody else picked up this hundred-thousand-dollar bill yet?

I'm only on page seven and this is already glorious.

Unlike the first two Imperiums and most planetary economies, the Third Imperium has no central bank. No one in the Imperial bureaucracy sets interest rates, acts as lender of last resort to failing banks, supervises check clearing or tries to reduce the impact of recessions. The Third Imperium feels that it has traded the promise of a smoother ride in the short term for a lower risk of financial catastrophe in the long term.

The Third Imperium has replaced the central bank structure with a monetary board. The members of the board are all retired bankers and economists, many of noble birth, but all chosen primarily for their hatred of anything that smacks of using monetary policy to meddle with the economy. Their task is to carefully control the long-term growth of the money supply so as to mirror the long-term growth of the economy...

Part of the task of the survey branch of the Scout Service is to provide up-to-date economic data for the monetary board to use in its long-range growth forecasts.

That's gonna make a great thumbnail image in the ol' RSS feed.

And this was written in 2004, well before the bailouts of '08 for example.

High-level summary of the simple trade system (correct me in the comments): for each world in your area of interest, figure out the size of its planetary economy and roughly how much total trade it does.  For each pair of worlds, compute a statistic for how much trade happens between the two of them.  There's a big table here for turning that statistic into a dollar-value per year and volumes of cargo, but we don't actually need that yet.  We do need to turn these links between worlds into trade routes and classify the routes by their total volume, and then there's a die roll multiplied by the total trade volume statistic of the pair of worlds to determine how much cargo people will pay you to move, and the price per ton is based on the route type and distance.

...  yeah we're not in Mongoose country anymore, Toto

One thing I don't like about this book is the forward references.  For example, a footnote on the big table of trade volumes on page 16 points forward to a heading on page 22. 

I am curious what these trade statistics and route types end up looking like under unusual subsector generation parameters, like Mongoose's "hard science" subsector generation option where bad atmos reduce population and low population reduces starport.  Also, what I'd have to change to apply them to HOSTILE's alternate FTL drive system.

The advanced trade system also takes those planetary economy sizes, openness to trade, route classifications, and trade-volume-by-planet-pairs as inputs, but the volume of available cargo for free traders is determined by the big table back in the previous chapter (with terms for random fluctuation and damping back towards average volume on the route), the market rate for shipping on each planet varies over time (random fluctuations plus a damping term), and there's a skill roll to see what fraction of the going bulk freight rate you get.  Also, cargo gets split into lots and it has traits like "biohazard" and "fragile" and some three-letter codes for...  conditions of delivery or something?  Also also, you can try to predict what the going rate for freight haulage will be in the future using skill rolls or asking brokers, and can try to learn what it was in the past in other markets by asking questions of crews coming from those places (and then making your own predictions from those estimates).

And this isn't for speculative cargo, where you buy high and sell low (wait no, the other thing).  This is speculating on how much you can get paid for hauling boxes of other peoples' stuff.

This definitely requires some book-keeping, because you need to know the 4d6 price volatility roll last week for the damping term in the computation of the new price and volume this week.  For each planet of interest.

No penalty is listed for failing to appear / deliver on a futures contract.

I do wonder how they figured the baseline costs per dton per parsec of haulage.  This would probably be relevant in a HOSTILE-like situation where jump works differently.

I am now on page 35 of 146 and my erec enthusiasm has subsided somewhat.

Skimming passenger stuff.  Passenger prices are less volatile than freight prices, and it's not too hard for free traders to eat the whole pie of available passengers on smaller routes.  It's not a very big pie though.

Page 36, on to speculative trading in cargoes.  Properties of speculative cargo are randomly generated independently (eg you roll for price on origin world and which planet codes have modifiers to buying price on separate tables) rather than from a single big table of types of goods.  You probably want to know a guy to find available speculative cargos.  You can try to predict one die of...  3d6? per destination market that you're considering hauling it to.

Huh.  So time series stuff is sort of discouraged in speculative goods trading.  Curious.

And it seems like the solution to the Golden Pair problem is a combination of "you can't consistently get any particular speculative cargo with the trade code modifiers that you want" and "the volume of contract cargo available for free traders on high-trade routes is limited".

We're now a third of the way through the book and we've covered pretty much everything that I expected to have covered.  What's left?

Incorporation, business plans, loans, stock market?, freight handling, traffic control, hiring crew, shipboard law, keeping a logbook, cargo manifests, filing flight plans, freight handling equipment, character options for GURPS, campaign models (tramp freighter, corporate, pirate, and smuggler), a subsector map and notes about its economy, lists of the trade stats for worlds in various published subsectors, some new starships (no deckplans though).

This feels like a reasonable cutting point, where there might or might not be a follow-on post about the rest of the book.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Magic Swords, Proficiencies, and the 1e DMG

This is actually like three short posts about magic swords rolled in to one.

  • I've been thinking about trying to organize some in-person D&D, and OSE is probably an easier sell than ACKS in this part of the world.  So in the absence of proficiencies, my previous post about magic items in place of proficiencies has been back on my mind.
  • If I also wanted to keep cleaving in an otherwise mostly-stock B/X game, that might also be a good thing to attach to magic swords.  At first wag, something like three cleaves per round per point of bonus seems likely to keep pace with 1 cleave per HD at least up to name level.  This has a number of other interesting properties:
  • Second, there was a discussion in discord recently about sentient swords.  Thinking about magic swords through the lens of "class proficiencies for fighters and thieves that clerics and MUs don't get", sentient swords are actually a restricted form of spellcasting for non-caster classes.  I think they're really important, that using them should generally not be a hassle, and neglecting to roll for them is a contributing factor to caster superiority.  The whole ego / conflict of wills mechanic is to keep high-level powers out of the hands of low-level fighters, and to keep fighters from amassing too many spell-like abilities by having multiple sentient swords. 
  • I've been skimming the 1e AD&D DMG recently, because it also keeps coming up in various discussions.  I went and looked in the treasure tables because I was curious about how it handled sentient swords, and several things struck me:
    • 25% of swords are "unusual" (sentient).  This is in the same ballpark as B/X's 30%, but much higher than ACKS or later editions.
    • "All abilities function only when the sword is held, drawn, and the possessor is concentrating on the desired result."  This isn't "ask the sword nicely to use its powers".
    • AD&D computes willpower score differently - sum of a character's Int and Wis scores plus their level (with the level bonus reduced by damage taken).  This means that cap for character willpower/personality score is basically unbounded!
      • A "typical" random sentient sword has about 13 Int, empathic communication, two detection abilities and an Ego of 3 or so, and is reasonably useable even by a low-level fighter of average mental stats.
    • "N.B. Most players will be unwilling to play swords with personalities as the personalities dictate. It is incumbent upon the DM to ensure that the role of the sword is played to the hilt"
      • har har
  • Reading the 1e DMG's magic swords, I was also struck how a number of them had effects that activate on a natural 20.
    • This wraps back around to limiting the scope of proficiency-like exceptional cases by making them magic items.  Rather than taking Weapon Focus in order to get the ability to crit, it's a property of some swords.
    • Making crits a property of magic weapons means monsters aren't critting PCs, which is the usual trouble with critical hit rules.
    • It also means you can have a variety of critical hit special effects, like vorpal's save-or-die vs the sword of life stealing's level drain on crit, without needing a complex critical hits table or system.  These effects can also be quite fantastical, since they're magical in origin.
    • This might also be a reasonable way to handle combat-maneuver like effects.  Magic hammers that sunder weapons on a natural 20, axes that break shields, rapier of disarming, magic shield that knocks foes down when they nat 1 against you, ...
  • Magic swords might also be a reasonable way to sneak backstab multiplier scaling into B/X, where even a max-level thief only does x2 damage.  idk whether I'd want to make just particular backstabbing swords that boost it, or something as simple as "a thief backstabbing with a sword +1 multiplies the die roll by x3 instead of x2, +2 -> x4, +3 -> x5".